The Front Row View is a regular column by Great Stories contributor Jim Cannizzaro. He is a veteran community theater leading man, seasoned blogger, movie enthusiast, and family man.
Rob Reiner’s 1989 When Harry Met Sally is considered the progenitor of the modern romantic comedy, although it’s generally forgotten that Woody Allen’s Annie Hall got there first. Admittedly, Woody isn’t for everyone, so for WHMS, the angst was ironed out and Woody was replaced by the more conventionally likeable Billy Crystal. WHMS is a copy, but it’s one that wears the warm and witty imprints of the people on the screen and behind the camera. Billy Crystal became a movie star because of this (and later, the Academy Awards’ best host). He slips into the movie with his affable screen presence, and provides some of the most interesting relationship tips circa 1989 (this then-single 24 year old took note!:)). Meg Ryan is beautiful and appealing, as well as a witty match for Crystal, although the sitcom strains show occasionally when she tries to be a little too “cute.” New York City fairly glows under Barry Sonnenfeld’s camera and the skillful Reiner guides the scenes ably. Special attention should be paid to Second Bananas Supreme Carrie Fisher and the late Bruno Kirby as Harry and Sally’s pals. They’re vivid and amusing enough to have had their own movie. And, per the commentary on the Special Edition DVD, it was actually Crystal and not screenwriter Nora Ephron that came up with the famous “I’ll have what she’s having” line (mouthed by Rob Reiner’s mother Estelle) in the famous restaurant “faking it” scene (to be honest, wildly out of character for Sally). Nitpicking aside, When Harry Met Sally is the perfect romantic comedy to pull out for Valentine’s Day. It comes from a simpler time and helps to remind us how important love is, even in the more complicated world of today.